Meckel's diverticulum is a small pouch in the wall of the intestine, near the junction of the small and large intestines. The pouch is a remnant of tissue from the prenatal development of the digestive system. It is not made of the same type of tissue as the small intestine, but instead, is made of the type of tissue found in the stomach or the pancreas.
The tissue in Meckel's diverticulum can produce acid, just as the tissue of the stomach does. The intestinal lining is sensitive to being in contact with acid, and eventually an ulcer can form. The ulcer can perforate (rupture), causing waste products from the intestine to leak into the abdomen. A serious abdominal infection called peritonitis can result. The intestine can also become obstructed (blocked) by Meckel's diverticulum.
Meckel's diverticulum is the most common birth defect of the digestive system. It is present in about 2 percent of the population.
When the intestine develops an ulcer, significant bleeding can result, causing anemia (low numbers of red blood cells in the bloodstream). If enough blood is lost, a child may go into shock, which is a life-threatening situation. A serious infection may also occur if the intestine perforates and leaks waste products into the abdomen.
The symptom seen most often with Meckel's diverticulum is the passage of a large amount of dark red blood from the rectum. There may also be brick-colored, jelly-like stool present. Passing the blood is usually painless, although some children may experience abdominal pain.
If your child passes blood or a bloody stool from the rectum, you should contact your child's doctor as soon as possible.
Symptoms of Meckel's diverticulum may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Please consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, imaging tests may be done to evaluate the intestinal tract. Diagnostic procedures for Meckel's diverticulum may include the following:
Specific treatment for Meckel's diverticulum will be determined by your child's doctor based on the following:
Doctors will usually recommend that a Meckel's diverticulum that is causing symptoms (such as bleeding) be surgically removed. Under general anesthesia, an incision will be made in the abdomen and the abnormal tissue will be removed. Stitches and/or a special tape called steri-strips will be used to close the incision when the operation is completed.
Your child's doctor or nurse will give you instructions to follow regarding your child's diet, pain medications, bathing, and activity at home.
There are usually no long-term problems after Meckel's diverticulum is repaired.
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